Easier travel with more sheltered walkways

Commuters living in the north and west will be the first beneficiaries of a $330 million project to extend the reach of covered walkways from MRT stations.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will call a tender this quarter to build linkways around the first batch of 19 stations such as Ang Mo Kio, Khatib and Clementi.

The aim is to give everyone walking within 400m of a station shelter from the rain and sun. There will also be covered links within 200m of LRT stations, bus interchanges and major bus stops.

Each town can expect about 1.2km to 1.5km of new walkways, though the project will also plug connectivity gaps in the existing network of links.

For instance, at Khatib station, a covered walkway from the bus stop in front of Block 624 at Yishun Ring Road will be extended across its junction with Yishun Avenue 2 to serve commuters exiting at that end of the station.

Engineer Mark Antao, 40, who walks about 200m from Khatib station to catch his bus home from that stop, welcomed the news. He said: "When it's raining or really hot, that's when it is most inconvenient."

In all, the LTA plans to add 200km of linkways to the 46km already in place over six phases. Tenders will be called every quarter till the middle of next year, and the entire project will be completed by 2018.

Mr Paul Fok, group director for engineering at LTA, said the "Walk2Ride" project stemmed from a commuter asking for a covered walkway on a vacant piece of state land behind Lakeside station - one of hundreds of such requests the LTA gets yearly.

Under old guidelines, the LTA would build walkways from transport nodes like MRT stations to schools and health-care facilities within 200m, and it could only build on road reserves.

Said Mr Fok: "When we looked at all these requests, it dawned upon us that actually point to point connections... didn't in totality serve the needs of people."

There were a lot of gaps in the first or last mile of journeys from one's home to the MRT station, he said.

At Lakeside, commuters were cutting across vacant land to get to Yuan Ching Secondary and the housing estate next to it.

The school was located about 350m away from Lakeside station - outside the stipulated 200m radius.

The LTA decided to build that asked-for walkway anyway, which meant it had to "break a number of rules", Mr Fok noted.

Apart from going beyond the 200m radius, it also had to seek permission from other government agencies to build on the land.

"That was the genesis of Walk2Ride," Mr Fok said. "If we are willing now to go beyond 200m, the next question is, how can we connect the points?"

LTA deputy director for commuter infrastructure development Isa Kamari said teams are dispatched to various estates to walk the ground and identify the gaps.

A plan is prepared and presented to grassroots leaders for feedback. After that, LTA planners will revise or extend certain linkway locations if necessary.

The first phase of the project will include the stretch of stations from Ang Mo Kio to Marsiling, and Tiong Bahru to Clementi. The second phase will include stations such as Bishan, Serangoon and Little India.

Mr Kamari said commuters can expect "complete connectivity" from their homes to major transport nodes by 2018. "We're trying to make the whole journey more comfortable, more convenient."

roysim@sph.com.sg

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